The Los Angeles Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association

Lawyers Reign Superior to Journalists Yet Again at Trivia Bowl XIII

Trivia Bowl XIII, photo by Darleene Powells

By Alyssa Dikitanan

On a night in which more than 250 professional journalists and community leaders competed in five vigorous rounds of highly intellectual and thought-provoking questions, one of the most challenging asked was: “In the lyrics for the 1992 hit song ‘I’m Too Sexy’ by Right Said Fred, what three fashion-centric places does the singer say he is too sexy for?”

As master of ceremonies David Ono, KABC 7 news anchor, told the competitors that the three places were Milan, New York and Japan, the room echoed with uproarious cheering from those who had answered the question correctly.

Oct. 19 marked the 13th Trivia Bowl fundraiser presented by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association. The fun-filled night of grueling competition and showmanship at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo helped the organization net more than $25,000 for scholarships and other programs.

The team of Fong & Chun and the law offices of Stuart Folinsky scored 70 of a possible 100 points, defeating 20 other entrants for first place and possession of the coveted Rice Cup. In doing so, they proved yet again that the lawyers were superior to the journalists in their knowledge of trivia.

Teams of as many as 12 players were tested in five categories of 20 questions each: current events, history and geography, arts and entertainment, science and literature, and sports and California living.

“It feels great to win,” said Richard Fruto, a member of the Fong & Chun team and husband of co-team captain Eileen Chun. “This is a fun event, and to win is special…. I just came to make sure we didn’t win the ramen,” he said, referring to the traditional last-place prize of a case of instant noodles.

“Our strategy was careful selection of the people who filled our table,” Fruto said of his team, a first-time entrant in the competition. “It doesn’t matter if you have an expert in everything, but you should have an expert of something.”

Fruto helped organize the very first Trivia Bowl in 1994 and was on the winning City News Service team. He would help run the event for 10 years, writing the quiz questions for eight of those years.

Before the competition started, players, event volunteers and guests enjoyed a buffet dinner donated by Wahoo’s Fish Taco. This marked the fourth year in which the Santa Ana-based restaurant company catered the event and the third in which it fielded a team.

“This is just a fun and friendly atmosphere,” said Wing Lam, one of the founders of the company and the team captain. In addition to that, he said, laughing, “I like seeing a bunch of Asian guys competing against each other.”

Emcee Ono was quick with the jokes as he introduced each team, trying to keep the mood lighthearted before the onset of the often intense game.

Ono noted that the program was starting “right on time … 40 minutes late.” To last year’s winners, the Japanese American Bar Association, he issued a taunt: “Still have your practice sessions and still can’t get a date on Saturday nights?”

Estelle Chun, the team’s captain, said the group held no practices, although some of its members did study on their own.

“We just made sure to have a group of diverse people who enjoyed a challenge,” Chun said.

The team of lawyers came in second this year, missing first place by only one point, finishing with 69.

“We are proud to be in second place, especially to the team that Richard Fruto was on,” Chun said.

Coming in third were KNBC 4 and Los Angeles Times Team II, which tied with 68 out of 100 questions answered correctly.

No one in the history of Trivia Bowl has yet to achieve a perfect score of 100, but how could any team, given such challenging questions as: “What five-word phrase is on the back of the famous diamond-shaped sign that welcomes you to fabulous Las Vegas?” and “What California university is home to the Bulwer-Lytton fiction-writing contest, which challenges contestants to create the worst opening line for a novel?”

Many teams find satisfaction in simply improving year after year.

“Our first year we took home the ramen for last place,” Lam of Wahoo’s said before the competition started. “Last year we came in second to last, so this year we are hoping to get third from last.”

In fact, Wahoo’s did much better than that, scoring 54 points and finishing ahead of nine teams.

City News Service sponsored El Camino High School’s academic decathlon team for its fifth appearance at Trivia Bowl. This year’s team scored 41 points, tying for last place with Southern California Edison and having to share the ramen noodles — believed to be a first for the event.

“We have never gotten last place before … but we like ramen,” said Cristina Nicoara of the El Camino team.

Between rounds, event organizers presented prizes to winners of the popular raffle and live auction. Items included a pair of JetBlue Airways round-trip tickets (with an estimated value of $1,500); Staples Center seats to Lakers, Clippers and Kings games (donated by several of the television stations in the competition and valued at up to $1,200); and vouchers for the just-released Verizon Wireless Juke cellular phone ($150).

AAJA-LA Chapter President Jinah Kim was proud to announce this year’s eight scholarship recipients, local college students who shared a total of $10,000. As in past years, one of the top awards commemorated Peter Imamura, an early chapter member and a reporter for the Riverside Press-Enterprise who died in 1993 at age 38.

Kim also offered an upbeat closing note: “After last year’s anniversary Trivia Bowl extravaganza, we had some big shoes — and expectations — to fill. But numbers-wise, this is now the second-most-successful Trivia Bowl the L.A. Chapter has ever had. We met the challenge and then some.”

Alyssa Dikitanan, a junior at Cal State Fullerton, is the winner of a 2007-08 AAJA-LA chapter scholarship.